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The Pirate's Guide t' th' Grammar of Story: A Creative Writing Curriculum Review by Sheila Quach

Pirate Captain Yogger LeFossa
S. Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr

Recently we have been able to take a peek into a new world with my kiddo; the world of creative writing. My son, Kaden, is 10 and has Autism. That being said, he struggles with learning a lot of rules that come along with grammar and English. It is for that reason that we have only formally done the very basics with him. His journal entries, when I get him to do them, usually consist of one to two sentences. He is a to-the-point, less-is-more kind of fella.

Things have changed a little bit around here thanks to a creative writing curriculum by Chris Hansen. It’s called A Pirate’s Guide t’ th’ Grammar of Story. Okay, I just have to say it’s taking all I have not to start throwing out Arghs, Aye Mates and a Yo Ho Ho. But, since we are all landlubbers, I’ll leave all the pirate talk right here and continue on with how we used this awesome curriculum with Scurvy Spat....I mean Kaden.

I will admit as soon as we received the workbook I was a little worried. I was afraid this was going to overwhelm Kaden, but we tried it anyway and boy am I happy we did. We opened it right up together and looked over the Table of Contents. I really liked that it simply showed what each lesson was focusing on. There is also a note from the notorious Pirate Captain Yogger LeFossa.  It was a very interesting read. Thankfully for the parents, the publisher also wrote a note offering a "properly" written introduction in the back of the book. It was wonderful and it honestly calmed my nerves because I got a sense of the real spirit behind this curriculum. It’s fun, entertaining, packed with adventure, and there is no right or wrong answers. 

Something to point out—this this is not your average creative writing program. This curriculum is half story and half lessons, with the dangling carrot as the story. That is what gets your kiddos to work on the exercises so diligently to get to the next part of the story. So you know what I’m talking about, imagine this: one minute your drifting off to sleep and then the next you’re out sloshing around in the sea only to be scooped up by pirates. It only gets better from there with its pirate-like language that’s easy to read because it is so captivating. Honestly, we could smell the salt air. Kaden was hooked from the beginning and six weeks later he is still going strong. 

We usually work on it 3-4 days a week. First, we read together and then he completes the exercises. Kaden is not very creative at all and he sees everything in black and white. But these exercises take creativity and it stretches it out by giving him the time to slowly get a creative thought out by using baby steps. For instance, one exercise was taking him through a process to create a very specific character. He had to choose a character from some examples, then answer questions about the character’s age, where they live, what they like to do, what they smell and look like. They showed examples how something common can be turned into something specific. He completed the assignment with a place, an event, and an object with ease. I was impressed with how the learning approach was all about leading by example. Kaden could experience what he was learning throughout the story. The given example work and hints were fabulous and easy to comprehend and replicate.

This program is the real deal, don’t let the ultra-cool theme behind it fool you. Your kiddo will learn the "grammar" of the story. They will learn to be story tellers. This is my favorite part—watching Kaden grow and imagine something from inside himself and then putting it down on paper. There were a few things that slowed him down where I needed to step in and help like when he was working on the 4th lesson about values. Non-physical values is a concept he had never thought of before. However, by following each step he was able to work though the exercise along with “Moral, Negative and Cultural Values” without frustration. I truly think the pirate story throughout the program helps Kaden feel confident within each lesson as it asks him to jump out of his comfort zone and to get creative.

Thishas, by far, been a highlight in Kaden’s education. I know 10 years from now he will remember this curriculum and I am thankful to have found it. He is eager to work on it every day and is determined to complete even when he hits a stumbling block. I think this would be perfect for any homeschool family that wants to keep the art of storytelling alive. It’s geared for kiddos 8 and up, 11 and up should be able to do this independently. Younger kiddos may need a little help or if your child has special needs like Kaden. You can use this as a special semester project or during the summer or for a whole year like we will be doing alongside a few other English related activities. I promise it will be so much fun as you work through each exercise and chapter of the story, and as you see your child’s progress. I’m sure you will share many belly laughs and probably learn a few things that you didn’t even know were deep down in your child’s imagination.

-Product review by Sheila Quach, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October, 2017